India messed up talks with Pak

Between talks which failed to make any progress and talks which could not be held at all, the former is always the better option because it gives an opportunity for the talking sides to exchange views and probe each other. It is worse when talks are scheduled and then abandoned at the last minute for unconvincing reasons, as in the case of the India-Pakistan talks at the level of their National Security Advisors (NSA). The NSAs were to meet in New Delhi on Monday following an agreement between the prime ministers of the two countries in Ufa in Russia last month. India should take the major blame for the fiasco, because it was its insistence that the Pakistani NSA, Sartaj Aziz, should not meet Kashmir’s Hurriyat Conference leaders in Delhi and that the talks would only be on issues of terrorism that led to the collapse of the plan. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj should take responsibility for the breakdown.

New Delhi mishandled and messed up the talks plan with unreasonable demands. It was unwise to insist that there should be no meeting between the Pakistani side and the Hurriyat leaders, or that only should terror should be discussed during the talks. The Hurriyat has no great say in Kashmir and it is situations like this which exaggerate its importance. There have been precedents of Hurriyat leaders meeting visiting Pakistani leaders and officials, even when the NDA government was in power. The Vajpayee government had allowed a Hurriyat team to visit Pakistan and talk to the leaders of the government there, including the then President Pervez Musharraf. NDA leaders like L K Advani had held talks with them. India is a democratic country and there is no case for imposing restrictions on some sections of people. Even on this, the government made
bad flip-flops. First, it seemed to be ready to allow the presence of Hurriyat leaders at a reception in the Pakistani High Commission, then reversed the position and placed them under house arrest – which is extra-judicial – only to release them after two hours and then again detain them. Such inconsistency in policy and decision-making shows the government in a poor light.

Terrorism and ways to deal with terror originating in Pakistan and directed at India should rightly top the agenda of talks between the two countries. But that does not mean that other issues, including Kashmir, should find no place there. Laying down too many red lines does not help to promote the cause of talks. The brinkmanship, the drama, and the rancour and acrimony of the past two days have made the situation worse than it was.
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